Are TV Adverts Increasing Childhood Obesity?

For many years now, food chains have been looking to enhance their menus by jumping on the healthy food bandwagon, offering foods containing less fat, cholesterol and sodium. They do so in the hope of enhancing their sales through targeting a whole new audience, with an anti-obesity drive. The likes of global fast food chains like McDonalds and Burger King have all had differing successes with their healthy menus, however it is believed that TV commercials are now having the most damaging effect on childhood obesity. So, as fast-food chains roll out healthier options for customers, why do their TV commercials continue to show such healthy alternatives?

A recent study has found that the apparent response of kids towards advertisements of junk food may well be the result of a key obesity gene which influences the brain to respond strongly to fast food advertisements as opposed to other cues to eat. Findings suggest that children with the obesity-associated gene have a greater reward centre when viewing fast-food commercials. Despite the research not being definitive, it once again adds to the notion that weight issues are not simply an issue of willpower and self-control.

During the research phase of the study, 78 children ranging from 9 to 12 were monitored as they watched television shows with commercials. With half of the commercials containing fast food products, researchers looked for associations between the children’s reactions to the commercials and their genetic makeup. Having been proven that children with a genetic obesity risk being likely to overeat after watching such commercials, results are likely to increase calls for a ban on fast-food adverts.

In the US, 1 in 3 children are either overweight or obese, putting them at risk of diabetes, heart issues and mental health orders potentially developing during adolescence. Children today spend more and more time in front of either a television or computer screen, and with strong correlation between the advertising of unhealthy foods and childhood obesity, the government, schools and parents now face a tough battle in securing the healthy future for our children.

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